Friday, December 30, 2011

Movies Watched in 2011--Annotated

Killers (2010)
I was told this was a cute little romantic comedy, but it was also a spy movie with a surprising amount of violence and death, for a cute little romantic comedy. The all-star cast tips the scale in its favor, but it's still a movie about a suburban couple who, after three years of wedded bliss, discovers that everyone is trying to kill them. Unsettling. Yet cute. Maybe a good compromise date choice. Not a pick, though.

Fracture (2007)
A little intense, but I enjoyed this for the acting, pitting Anthony Hopkins as a manipulative criminal against Ryan Gosling, ambitious prosecutor. You may remember this appealing younger actor from The Notebook. Did you know he was homeschooled?

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2011)
Rather than staying true to the book, this was a creative re-telling, blending events from the book into a new story line that worked well. I won't say the movie plot is better--it's tighter, but not as rich. I did love the ship, which was better than my imagination ever conjured! And the CGI for the dragon and the sea serpent were fabulous.

True Grit (2010)
This is my kind of Western, about characters with heart. The young actress who plays the main character was amazing. I read the book first and found the movie true.

To Save a Life (2009)
We actually watched this in 2010, but I forgot to list it. This poignant story is about a high school boy who commits suicide, and how his peers process his death and realize the ways they contributed to his despair. Yet it offers hope more than a guilt trip. Our teens really were touched by it. (Although this is one of those low-budget Christian movies, it contains mature situations like drinking, drugs, cutting, sex and teen pregnancy.)

Newsies (1992)
One of our kids’ all-time favorite musicals! It's "all-boy," with big dance numbers and a great musical score. It's one of the few Disney movies without a love story. It's also educational, based on the true story of the Newsboys Strike of 1899.

Bride and Prejudice (2004)
A Bollywood retelling of the Jane Austen story. Very Bollywood and fun.

1776 (1972)
One of my favorite musicals. The characterizations of the Founding Fathers are so believable; it humanizes their story and the drama of those days like no other book or movie I know. Our three oldest used to love to dress up and act out scenes from this movie--so many great moments in it! There are a few ribald jokes, but they go right over the heads of kids.

Tangled (2010)
Cute and fun. Maybe the build-up was too big, but it was not as refreshing and unique as I expected; it was still basically a princess movie, albeit with attitude. I really liked the horse.

The King's Speech (2010)
We thought this award-winning film deserved every bit of the critical acclaim it received for its excellence in portraying the true story of King George VI, who ended up as king after his older brother famously abdicated the throne for the love of Wallace Simpson. His leadership crippled by a speech impediment, he sought and received help from an unlikely source who became teacher, therapist and friend.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993)
I wanted the Bantams to meet the young Johnny Depp, and they loved this well-crafted film. Gilbert Grape (Depp) is a teenager who’s been holding his family together since the death of his father. Their ramshackle house, which his father built, is falling down around them, his mother weighs so much that she never leaves home, and his younger brother (brilliantly played by a young Leonardo DiCaprio) has a mental disability that requires constant alertness and attentiveness. The story speaks to responsibility and love of family in difficult circumstances (There is a housewife that keeps seducing Gilbert; get ready to fast-forward through those parts.)

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
This was an action/adventure movie with a twist about “maps” of people’s lives and angel-like characters who try to keep human beings on the route of their destiny. It was a little gimmicky and not that compelling of a story, I thought, but fine for what it was.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two (2011)
This was such a satisfying end to the series. I loved it.

Doubt (2008)
Intriguing film about a priest who may or may not have abused a young black boy at his parochial school. An older nun, played by Meryl Streep, has suspicions but no proof, and a younger nun, portrayed by Amy Adams, wants to believe the best in the face of reasons to doubt. There is one scene with the boy’s mother which earned that actress a nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and at the awards ceremony they said she deserved her own movie…which she got in The Help! (Which I am eager to see on DVD.)

The Beaver (2011)
This was a strange movie. Mel Gibson plays a father who is depressed and about to lose his family and his company. He dons a beaver puppet on one hand which becomes his energized, non-depressed alter ego, and he will only relate to his family and employees through the puppet. Upset with his own dependency on the puppet, he cuts his hand off, and his depression is gone. It made sense to Papa Rooster as "a fable about idolatry and dependencies, even apparently therapeutic ones which seems to make us more useful to society but in the end are dangerous to our true selves. 'Better to cut off your hand than to lose your soul.' "  But the kids and I just found it disturbing.

People Will Talk (1951)
This is a black-and-white Cary Grant movie that was pretty unremarkable and slow, we thought. But hey, it was streaming on Netflix.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009)
All six of our children love this movie and quote from it. Now I know why. A delightful kids' movie in the Pixar mold.

Shine (1996)
With aspiring musicians and actors in the house, we decided it was time to watch this with our teenagers. Amazing acting and an incredible true story about David Helfgott, a brilliant but neurotic piano prodigy.

Des Hommes et des Dieux (Of Gods and Men) (2010)
This was a beautiful true story about French monks in Algeria who decide to remain in their monastery and serve their community during the Algerian Civil War (1996) despite the personal sacrifice it eventually costs them. Subtitled and slow, but moving.

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
We watched this spoof after our boys played Merry Men onstage last spring. Not full of gay jokes, as you might think from the title, nor as bawdy as one might assume. I may not be remembering perfectly, but it seemed straight-up funny to me. And Robin Hood? He was played by Cary Elwes from Princess Bride ("As you wish")--all grown up and heroically humorous.

Soul Surfer (2011)
More well-done than I expected, still something lacking in the script and/or directing…but you couldn't help but appreciate the inspiring story.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Okay, I hear this is funnier if you’ve seen a lot of zombie movies, but it was my first, and I thought it was lame and disturbing. Blech!

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Just as funny as ever; more bad language than I remembered. But it’s a comedy classic.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in Concert (2001 TV)
This dark musical is best appreciated as a morality tale about those who let their appetites (especially for revenge) control them. For our teens, this is like the musical equivalent of a horror movie; they love the 2007 Johnny Depp version. But this version—which is the full score and story acted out, but with minimal staging and props--is vocally amazing, they agreed. Sondheim’s brilliant score never sounded so incredible. Even without blood, it is intense. (Patti LuPone plays Mrs. Lovett, if you’re trying to look this one up.) Not for everyone!


Anonymous said...

So, what do I win if I fill in the blanks ___ from your list of movies? ;) Ryan Gosling is perhaps my favorite working actor, and I'd highly recommend "Half Nelson", which is available streaming on Netflix. Didn't know he was home-schooled. In "The King's Speech", Colin Firth plays King George VI. I loved Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep in "Doubt". In your description of "Des Hommes et Des Dieux", you mistakenly that the film portrayed monks in France. Actually, the film portrayed French monks in Algeria during (1996) the Algerian Civil War. I always look forward to your movie list, thanks!

At A Hen's Pace said...


Oh, Matt, thank you!! I forgot I left those blanks. I wrote most of these reviews in the car, when I had no internet access to check my facts with! I remember now that I got all distracted with losing my formatting when I copied it from Word to Blogger.

So yes, thank you for the additions, corrections and the movie recommendation! We'll look for "Half Nelson" in 2012.